There have been a lot of uncertainty and doubts over Google penalties. The most common one is to consider Google’s algorithms the ones accused of penalizing websites. Algorithms are just the sets of rules that are programmed to deliver results which are defined by programmers. Algorithms like Panda and Penguin do the same. There are the quality standards defined by webmasters that are checked and acted upon when Google Algorithms come in action.
However, there are human reviewers too who are deployed by Google just to rate and review the websites which somehow pass Algorithmic scan but don’t really qualify according to Google quality standards. This penalizing of websites is commonly referred to as ‘websites being slapped with manual penalty’.
Understanding the difference between both types of penalties is very important because this is how you can start with the development of a strategy to recover from penalty.
When we talk about manual penalty, it mainly involves receiving of a report which explains manual penalty your website has been given. To recover from this penalty, there is a manual action required. After that action, you can submit a request for reconsideration and then wait for the response.
On the other hand, automatic penalty doesn’t require you to submit a request for reconsideration. You just need to fix the issue and wait for Google bots to crawl again.
Since recovery from algorithmic or automatic penalty is a straightforward process, we are going to talk only about the manual penalties.
Cloaking or/and sneaky redirects
If your websites has the links that redirect users to different pages from what are being shown to Google, you can get a manual penalty slapped after a human reviewer reviews your website. The URLs that do this trick are either the sneaky redirects or it’s the act of cloaking which is being done.
To fix such URLs, there is a manual action described below.
- Find pages from affected portions of your website by navigating to Google Search Console > Crawl > Fetch as Google.
- Look at the content on those pages and compare it with what is being shown to Google.
- Fix the differences.
- Check redirects and fix the ones that send users to unidentified locations or conditionally redirect.
- Submit the request for reconsideration.
Cloaking by First Click Free Violation
This type of cloaking mainly involves restricting users from seeing the desired web content unless they register or subscribe. Nevertheless, the content is shown to Google. This type of cloaking is referred to as the violation of Google’s First Click Free policy.
To fix this issue, the website administrator is usually required to keep the issue fixing until it complies with the Google’s First Click Free policy. Then the administrator may submit a request for reconsideration.
There are certain types of loopholes on some content management systems that let the hackers access the websites and inject spam and other links they want to promote. Such action is often very difficult to detect.
When people at Google are able to find out about the hacking activity on a site, they tag this website as ‘This site is hacked’. It can eventually cause demotion of a website in Google rankings.
To fix a hacked site, there are a number of things you need to do.
- You need to contact your web hosting team in order to collaborate with them regarding penalty.
- To keep the website from getting any further damaged, quarantine the website.
- To identify the type of hacking, use Google search console.
- To know how the hacker got in, you need to examine the level of vulnerability.
- Perform deeper cleaning of your website and close any loopholes, which would let the hackers to let in, before you bring the website online.
- Submit a request for reconsideration.
Hidden text and keyword stuffing
Hidden texts and keyword stuffing are the serious offences which can lead a user to get slapped by Google with a manual penalty.
To fix thee issues, consider following steps.
- First, access the affected pages by navigating to Google Search Console > Crawl > Fetch as Google.
- Find out the portion of text whose color is same as that of the color of background.
- Check CSS styling of the website in order to find out the text which hides when humans loko for it.
- Fix the styling to ensure that text becomes visible to users.
- Fix the paragraphs in which certain words are overly repeated.
- Fix the title tags and alt text that contain repeated words.
- Make sure that instances of any keyword stuffing are removed.
- Submit a request for reconsideration.
Spamming is considered an unforgivable offence for which no one can plead ignorance. The websites that engage in spammy practices in an aggressive manner are often slapped with this penalty.
In order to fix the website, you need to comply with the Google’s webmaster guidelines and then you can submit a request for reconsideration. Nevertheless, it is important to note that if you are slapped with this penalty for the first time, you can make fixes to comply with the guidelines. If it’s the second time, you will need to shut down the website and make a fresh start.
Affected by Free Hosts
There is nothing you can call free hosting. If a hosting company is providing you with a free service, there is a mighty chance that they would have an intention to use your website as a resource to show their spam content. Since Google has issued a warning to blacklist the entire services, there is no point you need to take the risk of using these services.
When it comes to fixing the site hosted by these spammy hosts, you need to shift your website to the name brands. When the migration is completed, you can submit a request for reconsideration.
Structured Markup which is spammy
If the markup content you are using violates the rich snippets guidelines, you can get penalized by Google. This violation mainly involves displaying misleading or irrelevant content to the users when they look at snippets.
To fix the issue, update, fix or remove the markup in order to comply with Google’s rich snippets guidelines. When the things are fixed, submit request for reconsideration.
Thin content that has no or very little value
Such type of content usually involves spun or auto-generated content, thin affiliate pages which would have OEM description with no unique value, content that is scrapped from other websites, guest posts of lower quality, and doorway pages.
To fix these issues, consider following steps.
- Remove the spun or auto-generated content.
- Remove the affiliate pages that give no value beyond the description by manufacturer.
- Use software for detection of plagiarized content and remove the duplicate content.
- Look for the pages which would have low word-count. Find the ways to make them meaningful by injecting come good quality content in those pages.
- Identify the doorway pages and remove them.
- When all is done, submit a request for reconsideration.
Unnatural links that point to your website
This type of link penalty is the most common one. The reason is that people participate in link schemes to get extra traffic. This activity is the obvious violation of Google’s Webmaster guidelines.
If your website is penalized for getting traffic from unnatural links, consider following steps to make a fix.
- Use Google Search Console to download links to your site.
- Perform an audit on the links to find out which links violate linking guidelines.
- To deal with non-conforming links, attach rel=”nofollow” attribute.
- For the links you are unable to remove or attach the nofollow attribute to, disavow them.
- After getting the link profile cleaned, submit a request for reconsideration.
Unnatural links existing in your site
The links that are sold or built in exchange are the ones that Google doesn’t want to let go unpunished. Google considers them unnatural, deceptive and manipulative outbound links.
To fix such links, you can either remove them or attach nofollow attribute with them. After it is done, submit a request for approval.
Penalty due to user generated spam
User generated spam is usually in form of forum posts, comments of any article or blog post, user profiles and guestbook pages. Obviously, it can lead to the penalty that would be slapped to your website by Google.
To fix such issue, consider following steps.
- Look for the pages in your website where people can leave comments.
- Look for the comments that advertise, include irrelevant links, spammy names and auto-generated content.
- Remove the spam.
- Make sure no content gets published without getting moderated.
- After cleaning the site, request for a review.
Google has become much advanced in targeting and penalizing websites which violate the guidelines. So, it is important that you fully understand those guidelines in order to make sure that you are following SEO best practices and not doing anything wrong which can lead to the blacklisting of your site.